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Front Bag For Frame Pack
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Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Front Bag For Frame Pack on 01/10/2011 21:55:45 MST Print View

I've been using a front bag on my frame pack for 10+ years. Here is a link to 4 pictures of the bag I currently use:

The four corners of the front bag connect to the corresponding 4 corners of my frame pack. With straps and buckles it weighs less than 3 ounces. It is made of uncoated 1.9 ounce ripstop. The buckles are 5/8 adjustable quick release types. The webbing is 1/2" nylon (works more easily with buckles than 5/8"). Bag is a simple flat stuff sack with a drawstring closure and a capacity of about 500 cubic inches.

Proximal (against chest) photo shows buckles with a white 3x5 card under them for better visibility. There are additional buckles for hanging bear spray, monocular, etc.

Front bag can be used (empty or full) as an alternative to traditional shoulder straps or in addition to them. I typically use only the front bag (without shoulder straps) and last year my hiking partner decided to also do so.

I place snacks, water, monocular, hanky, bear spray, camera, caps, writing material, maps, etc. in the front bag. It is very handy to access this stuff without taking the backpack off.

Front bag does a great job of balancing the total load. It eliminates the forward straining common with backpacks.

It takes a little time to adjust to this type of system but, for me, it has been well worth it. When the front and back bags are in balance (about 4 to 1 ratio of back bag to front bag weight) I don't even need to fasten the webs going from the lower corners of the front bag to the lower corners of the frame.

Conceptually this system is like a paperboy's (or girl's) canvas delivery bag. The pack frame picks up the load, however, so all the weight is transferred to the hips instead of resting on the shoulders. In fact when I started experimenting with this system I bought a paper delivery bag so I could experiment with it.

Edited by lyrad1 on 04/05/2011 16:28:09 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
inhibit breathing? on 01/10/2011 22:14:29 MST Print View

Does it press on your chest inhibiting breathing?

ziff house
(mrultralite) - F
warning; on 01/11/2011 00:19:57 MST Print View

Daryl, i'm going to steal your idea.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Front Bag For Frame Pack on 01/11/2011 01:54:44 MST Print View

Daryl, Looks good.
I used a pair of Thermorest stuff sacks connetected at top and bottom with a clip. The lower clip had some stiff elastic. Each was capable of holding a 8'x9' tarp and camera gear, for example.

I did not like the extra loading on my shoulders. The counterbalance worked perfectly. It pulled about 2 pounds per bag from my pack to the front. All of this was carried by my shoulders, which your design seems to circumvent. I used this a long time ago (hmmmm, 10-12 years ago) as I transitioned from lightweight to UL. I was trying to do away with a waste belt for 12 pounds and less starting weight. I could never get it to settle quite right. I went back to a waste belt and dropped the front pouches.

Check this out:

Edited by jamesdmarco on 01/11/2011 01:55:22 MST.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Inquiring Minds on 01/11/2011 09:07:46 MST Print View

Jerry, I haven't had a problem with the front bag inhibiting breathing. If it did I would loosen it, move it up or down, disconnect the lower straps, repack the bag, etc. The 4 straps are all adjustable and quick release so repositioning is easy as you walk down the trail. No need to stop.

I usually move the bag around as I walk. I carry it low on flat or downhill trails and high on steep uphill stretches. I also have two additonal buckles mounted near the top corners of the bag. I can connect the lower straps to these as an alternative to connecting them to the lower corners of the bag. This greatly reduces the amount of bag that contacts my chest. With the lower buckles attached in this way the bag feels about the same as a sternum strap (or maybe a trainer bra).

Ziff,I encourage stealing and do so myself when something comes along that I like. If you steal the idea and improve upon it I can then steal your new and better idea back for my use.

James, I'm familiar with Aarnpacks and have corresponded with him via e-mail regarding the front pack concept, some research on the subject and my experience with front packs. His website does a good job of illustrating the advantages of a front bag. I experimented with the two bag system you mention and Aarn uses but found that I preferred one bag. A single bag provides more volume and allows me to do away with the tradional shoulder pads.

Christopher Zimmer
(czimmer) - F

Locale: Ohio
Front Bag For Frame Pack on 01/11/2011 17:17:47 MST Print View

Very neat idea! Do you notice any shifting or swaying in the top of the bag while hiking since the straps aren't resting on your shoulders? I use a front bag all the time to keep my Canon DSLR in. If i didn't I would be stopping and taking my pack off to get my camera all the time.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Christopher Question on 01/11/2011 18:27:54 MST Print View

I rarely have a sway problem but if I do I can reduce or eliminate it by tightening the front bag straps or lowering the load on my back.

I can lower the load on my back in two ways.

(1) If I have attached too much weight to the top bar of the pack frame(e.g. a heavy tent), without having comparable weight in the back bag below it, I will remove the top bar item and place it in the back bag, thereby lowering the center of gravity of the load on my back, or

(2) I will lower the back bag itself (relative to the frame). It is adjustable.

The front bag alone would not be a good choice if one planned to carry a lot of weight very high on a very high frame (e.g. head height or higher). If I wanted to carry a very high load I would leave the traditional shoulder straps on the frame to supplement the front bag harness system.

The ideal adjustment for the upper straps of the front bag is to have them just kiss the shoulders as they pass over them, without transferring any weight to the tops of the shoulders. When the front straps are tightened they should press the shoulders horizontally toward the pack frame without adding any weight to the top of the shoulders. All of the front bag weight should be hanging from the top of the pack frame and thereby transferred to the waist belt.

Edited by lyrad1 on 01/11/2011 18:29:01 MST.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Front Bag For Frame Pack on 09/09/2011 08:59:50 MDT Print View

I see that Z Packs offers a front bag. Here's a link:


If the bag was mounted a bit higher on the exo pack frame I think the standard shoulder straps could be eliminated.

I've experimented with different front bag sizes and found that even bags several times the size of the Z Packs front bag still carry well. The larger bags I have tried also convert easily to day packs.

If quick release buckles are added to the top straps of the Z Packs front bag (slipped over webbing or tied on) then bear spray and a monoculuar can be carried in this handy position.

With two water bottles (4 lbs) hanging from the front bag (as they suggest) I think you'll be pleased with the improved (front to back) balance of the overall pack system.

Edited by lyrad1 on 09/09/2011 09:11:49 MDT.

Doug Coe
(sierraDoug) - F

Locale: Bay Area, CA, USA
Luxurylite's version on 10/21/2011 19:04:57 MDT Print View

Here's the Luxurylite pack's version of a front pack:

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Luxurylite's version on 10/21/2011 21:38:06 MDT Print View

That's a little different approach. Thanks for the post.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
AARN on 10/21/2011 22:44:22 MDT Print View

CHeck out aarn, they've perfected this. maybe you can get some ideas from them. I love aarn packs, its all i use after using them. In the coldest winter i carry 30lbs for 5-6 days. It feels like 15 with this pack. I have the featherlite freedom, cut down of course.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: AARN on 10/22/2011 08:44:25 MDT Print View

I also like the Aarn packs. They have the best website for understanding the benefits of a front bag also.

When designing packs I look at people's bodies to see where they carry weight. My front bag is like a pot belly on a person. The Aarn front bags are like two large chest bumps* on a woman.

*profanity detector wouldn't let me use more common term